thaw

March and April have definitely brought signs of spring this year. I think this March was milder and less snowier than last year’s, something I’m feeling grateful for. We’re still in that in-between stage, where it sometimes snows, but it’s mild enough now that it never lasts for too long when it does. The daylight hours grow longer every day, and I find myself full of optimism when the sun comes out.

While I love winter, the springtime thaw always brings a specific kind of joy. Lately, my walks have been getting longer. I’m determined to do some more hiking this summer than last, and to explore some of the spots in my local area I have yet to hit up (there are plenty!). Even when the weather isn’t sunny, being outside at this time of year often makes me want to do cartwheels. The fresh air is such a boon after a long winter.

Today might be the nicest day of the year so far – April always seems to have a way of sparkling when the sun comes out, and today there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s the kind of weather that seems to draw everyone outside, as we share a collective sigh of relief. It puts a goofy grin on my face, and I especially love walking by the water in this weather. You can smell the sea salt in the air, one of my favorite smells, and when you breathe in deep you can almost taste it. It makes it feel like summer (and taking dips in the fjord) is just around the corner. I keep bumping into friends when out on walks lately as well, which only adds to my joy. This cultural experience of the good weather drawing everyone outside is something Norway has in common with Seattle, and I know from friends and family back home that Seattle’s also been enjoying a stretch of extremely fine spring weather. I’m grateful.

The other thing I feel as the days grow warmer and longer is that I feel so immensely lucky to be here. To get to live here. My days are not only full of joy – work is often tricky these days (it’s no secret that a PhD is no picnic) and the news of late has often been devastating. But it makes the joy feel all the more important, so I will savor those moments when I am fortunate to have them.

another year, gone

November and December have come and gone, and it’s stayed pretty quiet in this space. There were a few reasons for that – it’s been a very busy time both at work at the university as well as behind the scenes with Paper Tiger, but I’ve also been coping with the worsening condition of a herniated disc that’s been plaguing me since early spring this year. It’s actually been a much longer chronic issue, but the occasional flare up of pain has never been a super big deal until 2020. Long story short, I wound up having minor surgery for it on December 18th. It was successful and I’m totally fine, just taking it easy at home while I recover. (I wrote a bit more about that here.)

We had a quiet Christmas at home in Trondheim and will have a quiet new year’s eve as well. Waking up to a thin dusting of snow on Christmas morning was a welcome treat (although it’s long gone now), as was video calling our families later in the day.

I did release a couple of new patterns the week before my surgery, and I will share those here as well, but they deserve their own post, so I will save it for another day soon.

Like many others, I feel like I don’t know where this year has gone. Time always seems to move quickly, but somehow in a year almost without travel, where the days bleed into one another more easily than ever before, time seems to have lost all meaning. I don’t feel too much like doing any big reflections this year. I’m just grateful to be moving towards a new year with a little bit more optimism, even if there are many things that aren’t going to change as quickly as we’d like them to.

I hope your final week of 2020 has been restful and restorative. I hope you’ve been able to find some joy in the midst of chaos and sadness. And I hope you’re able to look to 2021 with a little bit more optimism too.

x

FOs revisited

I’ve been thinking for several months about a few pieces in my wardrobe that aren’t working for whatever reason. Many of us seem to enjoy sharing our finished makes online, myself included, but how often do we go back and talk about when things don’t work? Several years on from finishing a project, it can be very clear that it doesn’t fit your wardrobe needs or style the way you thought it would. Even if you love it.

In those cases, there are a few different options. The most passive approach is to simply let it sit in your closet/wardrobe/storage, either totally forgotten or occasionally haunting you when you remember it exists. I’ve had a few of those. More active responses to the realization that a piece doesn’t fit your life include selling it or giving it away to someone whose life or body it fits better, or choosing to re-work it or re-use the materials in a way that will work better for you.

I’ve done this at least once before – back in 2016 I frogged a sweater project that rarely got worn, and wrote a bit about it in the latter half of this post. That yarn later got turned into a basic raglan pullover that I wear all the time, although I don’t think that FO ever featured on the blog (I did post about it on Instagram, though). I think the success of that experience is part of what’s led me to consider other pieces that could use a similar treatment.

So, there are a few pieces of my handmade wardrobe that haven’t been working for a long time, and I’ve been devising plans for them. I’ve even started executing a few of those plans, in fact. I’d like to share the results of each transformation when I finish them, but I figured I’d share a bit about my plans here at this point.

First up, my Svalbard cardigan, knit back in 2014 (you can see the original FO post here). I think this is a lovely design, and I actually did wear this cardigan a lot in the first year or two after I knit it, particularly when we still lived in Seattle. But over time, it became less and less something I reached for, for a variety of reasons. It didn’t work as well in the colder climates we’ve lived in since Seattle (Norway and Montreal). A huge part of why this is true is that it doesn’t pass the Jacket Test (that’s my shorthand for the question: Can you put on a coat or jacket over it without too much faff? If yes, it passes; if no, it fails). I’ve learned that my clothes live and die by the Jacket Test. Over time, I felt like Svalbard was less flattering on me and I rarely reached for it, but I love the yarn I knit it with and would happily use it in another project. So a month or two ago I frogged it, and it felt good. I’m not sure yet what this yarn will become, but it’ll be ready for me when I’ve made up my mind.

Other pieces I have plans for:

  • This simple gathered skirt sewn back in 2015. I’ll go more into detail after I’ve sewn a new skirt from this fabric, but suffice it to say that it turned out this skirt didn’t work as-is, and I deconstructed it this weekend in preparation for sewing it up into something that I hope will work much better. This plan was largely inspired by my success with the Fiore skirt.
  • My Circlet Shrug, knit in 2017. This plan is also already in progress, and luckily it doesn’t involve any frogging, but just a simple addition to the garment: sleeves! My Circlet Shrug is becoming a Circlet Cardigan. I’m very excited about this transformation and hope to share the finished modifications soon!
  • I’m also tentatively considering adding some length to the sleeves of my Lapwing pullover (again, an FO I never blogged about once finished, but that I did post on Instagram). This is lower on my priority list and it also wouldn’t be particularly fun – it would involve unpicking sleeve seams and pulling out a bind off in Hillesvåg Sølje, not the easiest yarn for that kind of task. I do wear my Lapwing, but I think I’d wear it more if the tightest part of the sleeve sat lower on my forearm for a more comfortable fit, and I do have enough yarn to make this modification. So we shall see.

I do think one thing that comes along with making our own clothes is continuously learning about what does and doesn’t work for us – and the wonderful thing is that as makers, we can so often tweak pieces we already own to make them work better, or even re-use the materials for a larger transformation. Have you ever frogged a sweater you knit or crocheted, or re-worked a piece you sewed? I’d be curious to hear how it worked for you!

a few september snaps

I know I’m not the only one wondering where the month has gone. (This year especially, that seems to keep happening.) September has been the wettest month in Trondheim so far – I think it’s rained nearly every day. Just weeks and weeks of rain. Yesterday we finally had a clear day for the first time in ages, and it was a real treat! But I did manage to grab a few snaps in the past few days when there were breaks in the rain. I thought I’d share a few with you today, in case you needed a dose of autumn beauty.

Although I didn’t feel quite ready for it when the first signs of fall started showing themselves, I’m definitely enjoying it now. It’s hard not to love this season in Norway, even when the rain clouds won’t leave you alone.

Yesterday’s clear skies gave us one more treat – I finally saw some proper northern lights in Trondheim! We were absolutely spoiled when we lived in Tromsø, since they happen quite regularly there. In Trondheim they’re less frequent, and there’s quite a bit of light pollution both from the city, as well as the farming region on the north side of the fjord which has a lot of greenhouses that cast a noticeable orange glow into the sky. But last night, there were a few minutes of pretty active aurora and we were lucky enough to watch from our balcony. I’ve really missed the aurora, so I hope we get to see some more this year.

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Late summer is giving way to early autumn.

You can feel the days growing shorter here in Trondheim, the sun sitting lower in the sky. While I enjoyed the long summer days, the return of night and the stars is welcome. The wildflowers have almost all finished and filled the breezy air with floating seeds. The rose hips are ripening and the rowan berries are turning bright red. A few eager leaves have even stared changing color.

I find myself moving back and forth between good days and low ones. Some days I feel like I’m coping relatively well with everything going on in the world and I can find moments of joy. Other days are harder. I’m sure many of you have felt similarly. It’s hard to know what to say beyond that.

I continue to take refuge in making, though, and I have finished a few projects in the past few months that I’ve been wanting to share as well. So hopefully you’ll see some more crafting in this space very soon.

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to soak up the lingering warm, sunny days we’re getting in between pockets of rain. I do enjoy a good mix of both, so I have no complaints there. And I’ll never turn down an excuse to enjoy an ice cream outside in the sunshine. As always, I hope you’re keeping well.

suddenly, summer

Trondheim fjord in the summer sunshine, with sailboats on the blue water and flowering cow parsley in the foreground

Summer feels like it came out of nowhere this year. After we had several days in May of waking up to fresh snowfalls that would melt away in the afternoon, the weather turned relatively quickly. June has been hot, sunny, and dry. I’ve been swimming in the fjord once or twice a week for the past couple of weeks, which has been a real source of joy. I’ve been finding small joys wherever I can, given how much of this year has been so difficult. The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone and it’s alarming to see infection rates continue to grow back in the US. If you’re reading this from somewhere where cases are still on the rise, I hope you’re staying safe. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter protests have been both inspiring, and in the case of the police brutality being directed at protesters, infuriating. It’s been a time of massive amounts of learning for a lot of us. At times I’ve felt overwhelmed, but I’m doing my best to work through whatever feelings I have so that I’m able to take action in the ways that I can. All if this is part of why it’s been quiet here for several weeks. But I want to come back to this space again.

A red boathouse in the sunshine fills the left side of the frame, with green grass and cow parsley growing alongside it. Trondheim fjord is visible in the background to the right under a blue sky.

My hand held up in front of a massive butterbur leaf

I’d forgotten how quickly things grow in the north in the months around the summer solstice, when night recedes so far away that there’s no real darkness. Pictured above is a massive butterbur leaf (although I prefer one of its other names, “bog rhubarb,” because I find it hilarious). Back in late April, there were little butterbur flower stems popping up all over Trondheim. There are no leaves at that point, and the little flower stems are low to the ground. But now these plants are maybe a meter and a half tall, and I can’t get over how huge the leaves are. Quite the transformation. Watching the flora change on the way into summer has been a source of joy for me as well – we arrived just before midsummer last year (June 17 marked one year in Trondheim) but now that we’re a bit more settled it’s been easier to watch the changes in real time.

A white horse grazes in a field of green grass. Wildflowers grow by a fence in the foreground and deeper green trees sit in the background.

A wild-looking rose bush with white blossoms blooms in the sunshine

The lilacs are just about done, but the roses have all started blooming now. The blossoms on our apple trees came and went and now there are tiny apples appearing. We’ve slowly been getting a kitchen garden put together as well. I started some things indoors earlier in the season and while it’s taking awhile to get things moved outside, I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere. Yesterday we assembled the little greenhouse we purchased back in March, so before too long I should actually have my tomato plants into their beds. I’m still such a novice at growing vegetables, but I’m finally not afraid of making mistakes and doing things “wrong” like I used to be – learning from experience is an excellent way to learn some things. At the very least we’ve done well with greens so far this year and have enjoyed some really delicious salads from our arugula and kale.

A birds-eye view of my planter box growing healthy kale and arugula. In my left hand I hold a jar of iced coffee, and my feet in brown leather shoes are visible at the bottom of the frame.

Orange and yellow primulas bloom in the sunshine

So I’ve been doing my best to soak it all up. I feel like these summer treats are how I’m recharging right now. I’m not getting enough sleep – the clear bright nights have been so beautiful it makes me not want to miss a thing – but I know that there’s clouds and rain on the horizon and there will be space for cozier summer days too (and a little bit more sleep).

I hope you’re keeping well, and I hope you have the headspace for a little bit of making or whatever is helping you recharge these days. We’re gonna need it.

A half-eaten lemon popsicle is held up in front of the Trondheim fjord at sunset

april

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The blog migration to WordPress is officially complete! Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve gotten everything moved over. Although I still have to go through my pattern catalog and fix all the broken links to support & tutorial posts, and that may take me some time to get through. If you find broken links elsewhere on the web, please feel free to let me know – I’d love to get them fixed.

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I feel like I have lots to catch up on here. April wasn’t busy, exactly, as it’s hard to feel busy when you spend so much time at home. But I did fill my time: knitting, sewing, baking, reading. Project planning. Garden planning. Planning planning planning. We are planning for a summer spent at home – and for once, we were actually planning on that anyway. I hope by July there’s an opportunity to do some more local travel within central Norway, but we shall see. Norway is slowly reopening (with restrictions), but I’m still trying to exercise an abundance of caution.

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I plan to share some of what I made in the month of April here on the blog very soon, so you can keep an eye out for that.

reflections on making

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Halfway through the second month of 2020, I’m beginning to get a sense of how limited my time for making is at the moment (and is likely to remain for at least several more months). Hashtag PhD life, or something like that? I’m getting a little bit of knitting done here and there, but it all feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace. I have two sock projects on the go, which I sometimes bring on my commute to work on, but I’m still on the first sock of both pairs. Most of the sweaters I have on the needles are fingering weight sweaters, which prompted me to cast on a worsted weight sweater a few weeks ago in the hopes that I could bang it out, but that also feels slow and now I just have another WIP. So you could say I’ve been thinking lately about my priorities when it comes to my making this year, and I thought I’d share what I’m feeling with you all.

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Firstly, after being apart from the majority of my WIPs and my stash for six months, I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all now that I have it back. Not entirely in a bad way – I missed it and I feel an excitement to work on projects with all these beautiful materials I’ve collected – but what makes it overwhelming is the relatively slow pace at which I’m working on projects at the moment. I managed to work through a lot of what I had with me in the fall, which felt very freeing, and I’m just not feeling that freedom anymore. This means I’m feeling two strong desires: one is to work through my existing WIPs (16 is the current count, going by my Ravelry project page), and the other is a desire to work from stash for new projects. I really, genuinely want to be doing both of those things. And that feels really good, although it’s clearly going to take a little while to work on the WIPs. A few of them aren’t so far from being finished (like my Galore as well as this summery sweater) and trying to get them wrapped up in the next couple of months will probably help a lot.

The other thing I’m feeling really strongly is a desire to make things for friends and family. This isn’t entirely incompatible with wanting to knit from my stash, luckily, but it is somewhat at odds with trying to get through my WIPs. Nonetheless, after being reuinited with *all my knits* I’m also feeling how much I don’t need anything new, despite all the yarn kicking around in my stash. Of course there are sweaters and other things I want to make for myself that I already have yarn for, but I have plenty of yarn to do more knitting for others, as well.

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I know a lot of this is really in line with how many other crafters are feeling right now – The Crimson Stitchery is one of my favorite podcasts, and Anushka has talked a lot in recent videos about storage space, stash, WIPs, and desire vs. necessity. I really appreciate her approach to crafting as it’s always creative and beautiful, but also thrifty and practical. (The tagline for her podcast is “making all things beautiful and useful.”) She’s hosting an initiative called Stashless2020 in which you can join in with the aim to do one of two things: either try to work through your existing stash to become completely stashless, or put less into your stash and work more from what you already have. I definitely fall into the latter category – even if I had all the time in the world to knit this year, I wouldn’t empty my stash – but I appreciate the encouragement provided by a group effort, and knowing there are others feeling the same. If you’re intrigued by the idea of Stashless2020, I’d encourage you to check out this video where Anuskha discusses the question, “Can I go stashless in 2020?”

I am so lucky to have so many beautiful things to make with, so when I feel frustrated by how slowly my projects seem to be going at the moment, I just try to remind myself: it’s not a race.

another new year

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Happy new year, all. I made that Norwegian godt nyttår garland back in 2010, and it’s still going strong – I expect it to last a long while yet. At the time, I was living in a shared house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle with a housemate I met in Icelandic class (who became one of my dearest friends), working part time in a plastics shop while I worked on my first master’s degree. It feels like a lifetime ago, but it also one of the periods of my life I look back on with the greatest fondness. It’s nice to remember all of that at the turn of each year, when that garland comes out.
I’ve been reflecting on the decade a little bit. There have been soaring highs but it has been turbulent in other ways – three transatlantic moves since 2015 seems to have really taken it out of me this year, even if I feel incredibly happy and comfortable in our decision to come back to Norway. I feel exhausted, but I also feel excited about the future we’ve chosen here. And so I find myself looking forward more than back, even if I feel apprehensive about some of the things 2020 may bring.
We spent the last two weeks of 2019 moving into our new house (finally!). Of course it takes time to make your home in a new place, but we already feel so good in our new home, which is a relief after six months of living out of a couple of suitcases in temporary rentals. I’ve been putting together a craft room (/hobby room/Paper Tiger HQ) again, and I’ve felt a renewed sense of inspiration that’s been missing for a few months now. It makes me excited about the projects this new year will bring. I’m not aiming to make more (in fact I’m always aiming to make less), but either way I am hoping to make things that I will really, really love. I would like to make more for others this year, as well.

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On that front, I got a sewing machine for Christmas, which I am incredibly excited about – I gave away my old sewing machine when we moved to Tromsø in 2015, and I haven’t had one since. It’s a little startling to realize that’s nearly half the decade I’ve been without one. I got it as a slightly early gift, so that I could hem some curtains for the new house, but I can’t wait to embark on a few garment projects later this year. I bought a few dress patterns in 2019 that I’ve admired for a long time (knowing that I planned to get a sewing machine again once we got settled here in Trondheim): the Bleuet dress from Deer & Doe, the Fen dress from Fancy Tiger, and the Emery dress from Christine Haynes. The only question is which one will win out to be first (I expect the Emery will win, though the Fen is a close second – I want to hold off on the Bleuet dress with all its buttons until I feel like I’ve gotten to practice a bit with my machine).
As for knitting, there are one or two design projects on the horizon, but it’s going to be a lot quieter on the pattern front, which I’m very okay with. I’m interested in knitting up some of the things from my queue, which overlaps with my other goal to knit more from stash. I’ll admit that I stocked up on a few things while working at Espace Tricot in Montreal (again, knowing that we were going to try to move back to Norway and certain yarns would be harder to get) and my stash has reached some rather astonishing proportions, at least by my own standards. It would feel really good to follow through on that planning and actually start knitting with some of that yarn. I think working in a few leftovers projects would be nice as well.
In general, 2020 is feeling like the year I’ve been planning for for a long time. We’ve spent several years trying to figure out where we wanted to “settle” – at least for a little while – and after moving every two years for I-don’t-know-how-many-years I’m definitely excited to not have any moves in the foreseeable future. Right now I have so much to be grateful for. I think 2020 will be the year I get to find my rhythm in Trondheim for real, and I can’t wait.

on seasons

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A bit related to my post on darkness: today I’m thinking about seasons.

For awhile now I’ve found it curious how so much our modern (western) society chooses to strictly adhere to the astronomical seasons as the only true definition of “season” (that is to say, the idea that each solstice or equinox marks the first day of a new season). As if seasons have borders. The winter solstice is December 22 this year, but does that mean that December 21 is “technically” still autumn? Plenty of people would say yes to that question, but for any of us who live in a climate where it’s been snowing already, that actually makes zero sense. Autumn one day, winter the next? (Maybe so, but that day came weeks ago here.) Perhaps printed calendars have something to do with it, but the older I get the more bizarre I find it, all the same.

In some ways I feel like social media has amplified this effect in my own life – many of the people I follow, and I myself, often post about the changing seasons at the solstices and equinox. (See a few of my old examples here and here) But the more I see posts about how it’s not “technically” some season yet but it sure feels like it is, the less relevant this strict adherence to astronomical seasons feels. So I guess I’ve been craving something different. Does it “sure feel like winter”? Cool, sounds like it’s winter to me.

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There are, both today and historically, different ways to define or conceptualize a season. Many places have or have had only two seasons: either a summer/winter dichotomy, or in more tropical regions, a wet season and a dry season. The Nordic countries are one of the regions that historically only distinguished between winter and summer – which makes the idea that Midsummer happens around the summer solstice make much more sense. I’m sure there must be others, but that’s the example I’m most familiar with.

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Even in four-season models, there are different boundaries for the four seasons. I’ve already mentioned the astronomical sense, where the seasons begin on the corresponding solstice or equinox. But do you know about meteorological seasons? Professional meteorologists in many regions use these definitions, and they correspond very neatly to three-month chunks: with winter beginning December 1, spring on March 1, summer on June 1, and autumn on September 1 (this is vindication for all you autumn-lovers out there who consider it autumn once the calendar hits September – remember this piece of information and you can use it next time someone tries to tell you “but it’s no technically autumn until September 21/22”).

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There are systems with six seasons, systems that pay no mind to the calendar at all but rather correspond to temperature or other natural or ecological cues, and other ways of marking seasons that you’ve probably never even considered. The “Season” Wikipedia page actually has a lot of interesting information about all of this, if you find all of this as fascinating or as liberating as I do to learn about.

It goes without saying that I speak from my own perspective as someone who grew up and has always lived in the northern hemisphere, so the dates here correspond to that. The photos in this post are all from 2015-2017, when we were living in Tromsø (which is probably the place where I started to disengage from the supremacy of astronomical seasons, because they made so little sense there beyond the summer/winter distinction).